On Sunday night, Radiohead proved that it has mastered the art of crescendo. From start to finish, the concert behind Prague’s Stromovka Park was a long arc of building tension followed by cathartic release. Within the songs themselves and throughout the set-list, the band harnessed the roller coaster inertia of the rise and fall.
It was a gorgeous night to be out in the park drinking 40 Crown beer (with a 50 crown deposit for the cup) on a dusty, fairly treeless section of land just behind the Prague Expo Center’s dancing fountains (turned off for the occasion). An odd location to be sure but one that suited the misfit nature of Radiohead’s music. The selection of songs was a fan’s dream. The band dove deep into its extensive catalog and pulled out gems like “Pyramid Song” and b-side/disc 2er “Bangers and Mash.” However, much of the show focused on songs from Radiohead’s 2007 release, In Rainbows. Even though the album is two years old, the songs crackled with energy and formed the skeletal structure of the show.
The vocals were spot on; the playing was sharp and tight. Still, it seemed like I was watching a band on the verge of destruction. This was my first Radiohead show, maybe they all seem like that but I couldn’t help but think that this was a band that was desperately looking for a new set of challenges. The inclusion of the new tune, “These Are My Twisted Words” did not help matters. It was the low point of the show as the tune itself is meandering and in search of a hook, a chorus and a verse. The song was an exception to an otherwise engrossing performance.
Throughout the show, lead singer, Thom Yorke, was mum except for dedicating “Pyramid Song” (?) to Franz Kafka. The musicianship was tight for a band that had been off the road for months but there was a definite tension. Like I said, maybe all of their shows are like this. After all, “joyous” is not a word that comes to mind when thinking of Radiohead.
However, “cathartic” is a word that can be used to describe their music and by the end of the set, “Everything in its Right Place” provided the perfect mix of electronics and musicianship to wrap up a dense and powerful show. It was a gorgeous August night in Prague and Radiohead lent the evening its soundtrack, projecting it’s damaged beauty all through the woods of Stromovka park. At least for that night, everything was indeed in its right place.